Amendment 81

Fisheries Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 4:42 pm on 9 March 2020.

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Lord Teverson:

Moved by Lord Teverson

81: Clause 17, page 13, line 25, at end insert—“( ) A licence granted under this section must require that foreign fishing vessels fishing in British waters comply with at least the same minimum technical regulations as British vessels for that same fishery.” Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment ensures that foreign vessels have to comply with the same technical rules as British vessels.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee

My Lords, I also support Amendment 82 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. Before I start, I will go back to the previous group of amendments and say how much I welcome the Minister’s statement on IUU fishing. This is absolutely fundamental to the wider global issues around sustainability of fish stocks, which are under great pressure. Unfortunately, a great deal of illegal fishing still goes on. The UK’s work in this area in the past has been really important. In many ways we have led the EU; let us remember the common fisheries policy. I am glad to hear reaffirmation of that today.

I move on to what I hope is a very easy amendment. It seems important that any foreign vessels allowed to fish in UK waters or our economic zone should have to comply at least with the same technical regulations as our own vessels. I have put that in as an amendment; I assume the Minister will stand up and say, “It’s already happening” or “We’re going to make sure it is”. I certainly hope that is the case with the excellent amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, about employment practices and safety standards. Obviously, we are all very aware of the safety issues on fishing vessels—on all vessels, indeed, but particularly in fishing, which is one of the most dangerous activities. I look for confirmation on both of those. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for tabling Amendment 81, and rise to speak to my Amendment 82, which is on the same matter. I hope that is helpful.

The noble Lord’s amendment requires foreign fishing vessels in British waters to comply with the same standards as British vessels. My amendment is very similar, making it clear that as the UK will be granting licences, the licensing authorities in the UK must make sure that all fishing boats, including foreign vessels, comply to UK standards on safety and employment practices.

Equal standards, the level playing field and equivalence have bedevilled all regulations between the UK, the EU and soon others, through all trade negotiations, not least with the USA. In fisheries, as in agriculture, there is clear interest that fair and equal competitive standards must be adhered to across the board. The Committee has recognised the tough and dangerous working conditions in which all UK fishers work; the whole of the UK would want these to be as safe as possible. It is equally important that employment standards and regulations in the UK must not be undermined by any lesser standards that may pertain overseas.

In conversations, officials in the Minister’s department have indicated that the technical side of this issue is dealt with in the Bill. Could the Minister specify its location? I am not sure whether employment law and practices are dealt with specifically, although the Minister may reply they are included in licence conditions. These amendments make sure they are, and that compliance is mandatory for both UK and foreign boats.

Election promises on standards must be upheld in legislation, not merely stating that we are leaving the EU on 31 January and that our future relationship must be decided by 31 December. These standards also need to be put in specific legislation.

Photo of Lord Cameron of Dillington Lord Cameron of Dillington Crossbench

My Lords, I add my support for Amendment 81 on the equitable treatment of British and foreign-licensed boats. I would have added my support to the previous group of amendments on remote electronic monitoring, but the mood of the House was not for another person to stand up and agree. But I will do so now.

We will be in close negotiations with the European Union, and—we have been looking into this on our Select Committee—equitable treatment of our boats and foreign boats will be an important part of those negotiations. The point that this might involve the enforced application of REM can be made to the European Union. As I said in the debate on discards a week or so ago, the prevention of discards is European Union law. It is its policy; the EU passed it, not the British. So it cannot, in all equity, claim that having cameras is an ask too far, because it is its law we are trying to enforce.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am grateful to noble Lords for this short debate, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. He is right to emphasise the need for proper safety regulations for all vessels fishing in our waters.

Amendment 81 seeks to ensure that all vessels, regardless of nationality, follow the same technical conservation measures when operating in UK waters. Schedule 2 to the Bill extends domestic legislation containing technical measures, such as restrictions on the size of velvet crab that can be caught, to foreign vessels. Under the common fisheries policy, this legislation has been able to apply only to British boats, so this change provides for the first time the level playing field between British and foreign vessels sought by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. Further, Schedule 3 provides the powers to set conditions on licences and to extend those conditions so that they also apply to foreign vessels. I make it clear that our intent is to ensure that equitable approaches for licence conditions apply to both domestic and foreign boats in the future.

This amendment seeks to mandate additional licensing criteria for foreign vessels. We regard this as unnecessary, as measures to achieve equitable treatment are already provided for by the Bill.

Finally, the amendment does not take into account the devolved competence of the fisheries administrations to set their own licence conditions in their waters, where they do not conflict with delivering what has been agreed internationally.

Amendment 82 seeks to address two very serious issues. As my noble friend the Minister noted in his opening speech at Second Reading, and as we have discussed previously in Committee, fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations. I regret that too many deaths and injuries still occur in our waters. However, safety at sea—for all vessels, not just fishing boats—falls within the remit of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—the MCA—which has powers to enforce safety regulation.

Under the Fishing Vessel (Codes of Practice) Regulations 2017, a non-UK fishing vessel must not enter UK waters unless,

“if its registered length is 24 metres or over, it has been certified by its flag State as complying with the requirements of the Torremolinos Protocol” on the safety of fishing vessels,

“or … if its registered length is less than 24 metres, it has been certified by its flag State as complying with the requirements of that State applying to vessels of that length”.

If a foreign vessel does not comply with these requirements in the future, it will not be granted a licence to fish in UK waters.

The MCA is also working to implement the International Labour Organization’s work in fishing convention into UK law. Its aims are for all fishermen to have decent living and working conditions, regardless of employment status. It entitles all fishermen to written terms and conditions of employment, decent accommodation and food, medical care, regulated working time, regular payment, repatriation, social protection, and health and safety onboard. It also provides minimum standards relating to medical fitness.

Lastly, I note that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, mentioned discards and European law. This will be covered at a later stage.

With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee

I am very convinced by the Minister. However, coming back to the fact that this is devolved, I must admit that the thought of Scottish waters insisting on it and English waters not doing so rather boggles the mind. But I am very happy to withdraw the amendment, given those assurances.

Amendment 81 withdrawn.

Amendment 82 not moved.

Clause 17 agreed.